Thursday, June 14, 2018
The Kentucky Supreme Court sanctioned a Master Commissioner with a four-year suspension with the last 18 months probated.
During her tenure, Chenault managed the Master Commissioner's bank accounts. Chenault's job duties included paying her own and her staff's salaries from the Master Commissioner's operating account. The Administrative .Office of the Courts (AOC) conducted annual audits of the bank accounts and noticed substantial discrepancies in the audits for 2013 and l2014.
Specifically, Chenault should have paid herself an annual salary of no more than $58,000; however, in 2013, Chenault exceeded her authorized compensation by $32,663.07, and in 2014, by $27,520.83.
She entered an Alford plea to criminal charges.
Bar Counsel sought disbarment
We have held, "our precedent is crystal clear: we treat criminal financial misconduct by attorneys very seriously; and we have previously found that disbarment was appropriate for numerous attorneys who had committed criminal offenses involving dishonesty in. financial matters." Kentucky Bar Ass'n v. Rorrer, 222 S.W.3d 223, 229 (Ky. 2007). However, we look to the specific facts and circumstances of each case. Of the cases Bar Counsel points us to, we believe that Chenault's case is most like Polk's. Chenault had been the Master Commissioner for more than six years with no evidence of intentional misappropriation of funds prior to 2013. Furthermore, when she became aware of the amount of funds she had misappropriated, she deposited an amount sufficient to pay those funds back in her lawyer's escrow account prior to being ordered to repay the amount. She participated in the disciplinary process and, while providing mitigating circumstances" did not contest the fact that her conduct violated our ethical rules-unlike Layton. In distinguishing the other cases cited by Bar Counsel, unlike King and Polk, Chenault did not move the Court for disbarment and her Alford plea did not require her to do so.
We also point out that, while we take financial crimes seriously, we have not always held permanent disbarment was the appropriate sanction.
She must satisfy outstanding claim judgment arising from the misconduct prior to reinstatement. (Mike Frisch)